I’m a big believer in passion.

Passion can take you far when you work in nonprofit.

It attracts others who are also passionate about your cause, which usually results in donations and volunteers.

But passion isn’t enough.

You need to be able to provide the leadership and management your organization needs to grow and fulfill its purpose.

Not everyone is a born leader. Nor is everyone born knowing how to manage.

But there are specific skills you can learn that will help you lead your nonprofit to success.

Here are 9 skills that you MUST master if you’re going to fulfill your mission and change the lives you’re here to change.
1. Non Profit Planning. Success doesn’t happen by accident. In order to reach your goals, you need a well thought-out plan. You need to be able to think in terms of long-term and short-term plans. In other words, plan for today, this week, this month, this year, and this decade. In your plan, be sure to include who (help you’ll need) will do what (responsibilities), what things will cost (budget), and how you’ll stay on target (accountability).

2. Public speaking (and sharing your vision). A consistent trait I see among those I consider wildly successful nonprofit founders is their ability to share their vision with others, either one-on-one or in a group. You need to be able to articulately describe the need you’re addressing in a way that moves listener’s hearts. When you confidently share about your vision and why it matters, you’ll attract supporters like moths to a flame. Passion, clarity, and confidence are key here to telling your story.

3. Recruiting help. The old saying “many hands make light work” is true. There’s no way you’ll reach your goals and see your nonprofit through to success by yourself. You have to have help. Whether it’s volunteers, interns, subcontractors, or paid staff, having others around you will help you get more done. What help do you need? Who is ideal to help you? Where will you find them? How will you set them up for success? Finding and keeping good help is critical to your nonprofit’s success.

4. Building relationships. No one wants to be “hit up” for anything. It feels manipulative. Instead, people help those they care about. What’s the difference? It’s all about the relationship. When you invest a little time in someone to get to know them, it creates trust. Build that trust, and that person will likely reciprocate in caring about you, too. Most folks get hung up when it comes to building relationships on purpose. We’re used to relationships growing naturally, and when we do it for the purpose of getting a donation, it can seem uncomfortable. As long as your intention is good, there’s nothing wrong, so don’t worry about it. Keep the best interests of the donor in mind and you won’t do anything that feels yucky.

5. Crunching numbers. You need to be able to tell your story through numbers. How many lives need your services? How many have you helped so far this year? What does it cost you to change or save a life?  Get comfy with numbers, because you must be able to confidently talk about them. You also need to be able to look at your basic financial statements and understand them. An excuse like “I’m not a numbers person” does not let you off the hook. I was pretty intimidated by numbers when I first started my nonprofit career.  One look at the budget and I would glaze over. But I forced myself to listen to the financial conversations at the Board meetings. I attended Finance Committee meetings and tried to understand. I didn’t always follow the conversation, but I usually picked up a nugget. After many months of this, I cobbled together a basic understanding of our financial statements. I’m still no numerical genius, but I know enough to explain it to a donor, and that matters.

6. Managing time. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were more hours in the day to get stuff done?  Between our long lists of things to do and increasing demands on our time, it’s easy to feel stretched too thin. It’s up to us to know what to focus on and to set the boundaries on what we will and won’t do. You need to learn to manage your time so that you get done what you need to get done and say “no” to the rest. Simple things can help like working in your strengths. Turn off your email. Outsource or automate everything you can. Don’t say “yes” to everyone and everything simply because you think you’re supposed to.  Guard your time – you’re the only one who can.

7. Leading people. You’re the leader and people will look to you for direction. Be ready to paint the picture of where you’re going and then motivate folks to join you for the journey. Being a good leader is about setting the pace and then inviting others to follow. It’s not about forcing anyone to do anything.

8. Delegating. You’ll never grow your nonprofit to its fullest potential on your own. You must have help. And part of building a team around you is delegating. Give people stuff to do. Explain what needs to be done and how it fits into the big picture. Give them a deadline. Then give them the support they need to get it done. Most people want to help, but if they aren’t clear about what needs to be done, they’ll stumble. Part of good delegating is giving clear directions and accountability.

9. Self care. Don’t gloss over this one! We all know we need to eat right, exercise, and get enough rest. So why don’t we do it? Why do we have an epidemic of stressed out, overweight, exhausted people? I think because we take it for granted. Here’s the bottom line: You won’t be successful if your body starts to fail you, so keep it in tip-top condition. I find that exercise not only helps my physical strength, but my mental strength, too. Find what works for you and do it. It’s all about self discipline and commitment to yourself. Value YOU as much as you value the lives your nonprofit seeks to serve.

So, there you have it- 9 skills every Founder (and Leader) needs to master. Which one resonates most with you? Leave a comment on the blog and let us know which one you need to work on most.

Are you on Pinterest?

It’s pretty easy to get lost there for hours, looking at craft projects, recipes, and funny memes.

I have several Boards there including one where I pin inspirational quotes.

Some of them move me. Others make me think. Some inspire me to do better and be better.

Here are a dozen of my favorite inspirational ones.

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Any of those speak to you? I’d love to know. Feel free to hit “reply” and share which ones resonate with you.
Want to see my whole Board of 355 quotes (and adding all the time? It’s on Pinterest at  https://www.pinterest.com/sandyrees/mindset/.
Just for fun, I have a couple of Boards with pins that make me laugh, like this one:

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For more funnies, go to https://www.pinterest.com/sandyrees/stuff-my-kids-will-think-is-funny/

Spending time stewarding donors’ gifts is THE most important thing you can do in fundraising. Last week, I had the honor of hosting Joe Garecht for an invitation-only webinar for our customers and clients covering the finer points of donor stewardship.  Joe gave us a LOT of great insight and ideas, and I thought I’d share a few nuggets with you.Stewardship is critical if you want to be able to keep your current donors giving (and who doesn’t?). A current donor is 5 times more likely to give than someone who hasn’t given. Most business people know that it’s cheaper to keep a current customer than to get a new one, and it’s the same in nonprofit fundraising.If your idea of stewardship is to send a newsletter containing an ask for more money, then you’ll eventually have NO donor relationships or donors. No one likes the charity who shows up every time with their hand out. We have to balance the asking with sharing and communication.Good stewardship is about treating people like the valuable resource they are. It’s important no matter how big or small your organization is to treat every donor as if they are your most important one. When you do that well, your donors will feel really good about supporting your nonprofit’s work.

You have 3 main goals with stewardship:

1. Retain. Keep donors as long as you can, even if they only make 1 gift during the year. Remember, it’s easier to keep current donors giving than to go get new ones.

2. Upgrade. Encourage them to increase the amount they give. There are two ways to raise more money: get new donors and get more money from the donors you already have. Most  people will naturally upgrade if they trust you, feel connected to your work, and feel inspired to support you.

3. Refer. Encourage them to bring other donors to you. Word of mouth is usually the best marketing for any nonprofit or business. If your current donors are telling their friends about their great experience with you, you’ll grow your donor base faster and more cost-effectively.

The better job you do with these 3 goals, the more successful you’ll be in raising money.

So what is stewardship? A steward is someone who has been entrusted with the resources of others.

Your donors give you money and it’s your job to use it wisely. Do this well, and fundraising gets easier, because you’ll build trust with your donors.


Here are 7 principles of good stewardship.

1. Stewardship is a process, not a one-time activity. You’re not done when the thank-you letter goes in the mail. You have to find ways to keep people in the know about what their gift is doing, and you need individual plans for major donors.

2. Stewardship requires communication. When a donor calls or emails, they should be your top priority – don’t make them wait. The more you talk and communicate with them, the healthier the relationship is.

3. Stewardship requires transparency. Tell them specifically what you’re doing with their gift. How is their donation making a difference? Are lives being changed? They want to know and it helps them feel good about their decision to give to you.

4. The best donors give more than just money. Value their time, their stuff, and their friends, too. They have way more to bring to the table than just financial contributions.

5. Keep the process fresh and exciting. Don’t let donors get bored. Don’t send the same dull or tired letters or newsletters. Surprise and enchant them. Give them something to talk to their friends and coworkers about.

6. Recognition is crucial.  Recognize them for the part they’re playing. Tell them how they’re the hero in your work. And honor their request if they’d like to remain anonymous.

7. Solicit sparingly, but do solicit. Be sure to share good stories and updates with them frequently so you’re not always asking. Asking 2-4 times per year is usually enough, but your mileage may vary, so do what works for your nonprofit.

Now, when the rubber meets the road, what does good stewardship look like? And does it have to take up all your time?


Here are 8 ways to steward your donors in very manageable ways.

1. Newsletters (either print or email). Staying in touch with donors is critical and a newsletter is a great way to do that. Include great content that warms their heart and is relevant to them.

2. Website. It must be interesting and regularly updated. You might include photos and video of your programs in action so donors can see what their gift is making possible.

3. Non-ask event. Also called a stewardship event, this can be a great way to share with lots of donors at once and give them an update on what’s happening in your programs.

4. Breakfast or lunch meetings. Get face-to-face with your donors and tell them what’s happening. Answer their questions and thank them personally.

5. Personal phone calls. Call them to thank them and give them an update. If they’re busy or not in your geographic area, a phone call can be a great way to steward a donor.

6. Participatory event. Invite them to get involved in an event that benefits your nonprofit, like a walk-a-thon or restaurant week. These low-risk, low-entry events can be a great way for them to take the next step with you.

7. Giving clubs.  Add them to your giving club to offer them recognition for their gift. For example, anyone who gives $1,000 or more automatically becomes part of the “President’s Club” and receives special invitations throughout the year to VIP events and activities. Make sure that whatever you promise you can easily deliver! You don’t want to disappoint donors.

8. Branded Giveaways. It might be appropriate to put your logo on an item and give to your donors. For some nonprofits, a lapel pin with the organization’s logo can make a nice gift.


The most important thing is to help your donor feel like part of the team. Set aside an hour a day to work on stewardship activities, and watch your fundraising soar

I travel a good bit, speaking at conferences, and I also lead a lot of webinars.

So it’s no surprise that I get asked a LOT of questions about fundraising.

I don’t mind answering them, and I’m tickled that people feel comfortable enough right after meeting me to ask a question.

Sometimes, the questions make me shake my head and wonder how these folks are making it.

You see, sometimes people ask the wrong questions.

It’s clear to me that sometimes folks are focused on the wrong thing. They’re more concerned about the technique than the result.

It’s easy to do. There are LOTS of workshops and webinars out there telling you the finer points of grant writing or direct mail or social media. And you need to know those things.

But you MUST stay focused on the most important parts of fundraising or the techniques don’t matter.

Here are 5 questions that you shouldn’t be asking along with better questions to get you focused on the right thing.

1. “Why won’t my Board help with fundraising?” This one is really common and sometimes there’s a variation on it like “How can I get my Board to fundraise?” This tells me you have an expectation that they should be helping you. Granted, they should, but most people who join a nonprofit Board don’t understand what they’ve said “yes” to. They don’t come with full knowledge of how good fundraising works. And it’s your job to help them along. The question you should be asking is “What do I need to do to help my Board understand fundraising and feel comfortable helping?”

2.“How long should my fundraising letter be?” I get this one all the time. People are too focused on the length of the letter instead of the content. Should it be one page? Two pages? Here’s the answer: make it as long as it needs to be to adequately say what it needs to say. It’s more important to tell a story that engages the reader and keeps them reading, moving them to take action. The question you should be asking is “What do I need to say to help my reader feel inspired and want to give?”

3. “What are some fundraisers that are working for others?”  Folks who don’t understand donor-based fundraising always lean toward events or ‘fundraisers.’ While there’s a place for a really well-done event, it’s easy for young organizations to get on what I call the “Special Event Hamster Wheel” where they spend a ton of time working really hard and never bring in the kind of money they need. It’s exhausting and the ROI is terrible. Stop looking for the latest and greatest, and instead ask, “What could we do that would give us the results we need, based on our organizational strengths and goals?” What have you got that you could leverage? In the Get Fully Funded system, I talk about organizational ass ets that lend themselves to various events so you can get the absolute most from your efforts.

4. “Why won’t our Facebook fans give? If each one would just give a dollar…” There are a couple of problems with this one. First, you’re assuming that people who ‘like’ your page actually care about your mission. I know it may come as a shock, but they may simply be a casual supporter and see that ‘liking’ your page is their way of supporting you. Second, have you given them something worth supporting? Are you asking them to ‘help us reach our goal’ or are you asking them to ‘help change a life?’ There’s a big difference. If you want to see more donations from your Facebook tribe, you should be asking “What are we doing to inspire our Facebook fans to give?”

5. “Where do we find rich people and how can we get them to give?” I get this one from the people who are trying the nonprofit version of the ‘get rich quick’ scheme. They want a sugar daddy to write them a big check and be done with it. I’m all for big gifts, but most (or all) of your revenue from one donor is dangerous. If that one donor goes away, what will you do?  Instead of looking for the ‘rich people’ in town, look for folks who are likely to care about your cause and start engaging them. Focus on the relationship, not the money. The relationship is WAY more valuable. If you want big gifts, ask “Who is the ideal person to give to us and how can we best connect with them?” Build the relationship one step at a time for best results.

Did you catch the theme here? It’s all about the relationships you have with your donors. Without them, there isn’t much fundraising to do.

Your turn.

What questions have you heard or have you asked that may be the wrong questions? Be brave and share them in the comments on the blog. We may just select a winner to ask a question directly to me.

Hand writing What Do You Think with blue marker on transparent wipe board.I love it when readers write in and share their thoughts.

Last week’s article “Go From Squeamish to Successful When You Ask For Money” apparently struck a nerve. Thanks to all who told me how much you got from that.

One was so good I wanted to share it with you.

Here’s some nonprofit fundraising insight from Bob Doan, Community Development Coordinator, Arthur Area Economic Development Corporation, IL.

I work for the Arthur Area Economic Development Corporation and I am the primary fund-raiser for the group. Here are some “notes” I try to remember each day.

Keep in mind our annual budget is approximately $80,000 in a very rural Amish community of 2,300 in town and 4,500 in the country. In addition I am also the primary fund raiser for our new Tourism group which has a budget of $55,000.

Our village provides us $30,000 total for both groups which means we raise another $105,000 in our small community.

I find that to be amazing. We are truly a blessed community.

1. I am fund-raising every day whether I like it or not.

2. Don’t ask people to do something (like fundraise) if they are not trained for or capable of doing it.

3. It is best if I fundraise for only one organization unless one of them is a church.

4. We consider every business/person who provides funds for us to use as “investors”. (Our investors range from $100 to $15,000 annually.)

5. You never run out of “thank yous.” And be sincere with them.

6. I NEVER “ask” for funds! We share “opportunities” to support our organization.

7. In small communities never underestimate the opportunity to “help my community” as an approach with investors.

8. Relationships raise money, not “asking” for funds.

9. Have a minimum amount in mind when discussing an opportunity with an investor. Don’t be limited by a “maximum” you have created.

10. Confidence in yourself and your organization are vital to successful fundraising.

11. Create ways for businesses and people to invest with your organization because many of them truly want to help.

12. Gifts-In-Kind should be an option for everyone and they need to be monitored closely by the organization.
Your turn

How about you? What nonprofit fundraising truths do you live by? I would love to see your comments below.

Freaking Out

We’ve all been there.

You’re raising money for a project.

You’ve identified someone who can give to move you toward your goal.

You find their contact information. You might even have a pledge form ready.

Everything builds up to the moment when it’s time to ask and…..

You freeze.

You either can’t get the words out or you mangle it so badly your donor looks at you like you’re speaking Latin.

Why does this happen?

Why is asking someone for something so hard?

Why does it seem so easy for some people to ask when others struggle?

It doesn’t matter if you’re asking a volunteer to work a Saturday morning shift, asking for a gift certificate for your silent auction, or asking a big donor for a $50,000 gift, making that ask can be scary.


Reasons why it’s tough to ask

There are a lot of reasons why it can be hard for you to ask a simple question to a donor.

  • Inexperienced. If you’re new to asking, it can be scary. Lots of people are nervous the first time they attempt something new, because they have no idea how it’s going to turn out or how they’ll do. We all put a lot of pressure on ourselves to get it right the first time, which really isn’t fair. You wouldn’t expect a child to ride a bike the first time they get on, would you?
  • Not prepared. Maybe you don’t know what to say or how much to ask for. This is not the time to wing it or shoot from the hip. Without a clear idea of what how you want the conversation to go, it can take any number of courses and end badly for you.
  • Lack of confidence. Sometimes, you just don’t feel ready. Maybe you think you’re not the one who should be asking or that you don’t know enough about the organization. And guess what? When you don’t feel confident, it comes through, which usually reduces the chances that the donor will say “yes.”
  • Mindset. What you believe about fundraising and money and giving and practically everything makes up your mindset. If you believe that your cause isn’t as good as another nonprofit’s, you’ll downplay the work your nonprofit does and people won’t be as inclined to give. If you believe that the economy is bad and people won’t give, they won’t. If you believe there’s too much competition for fundraising, you’ll struggle to get your share. See how this works?


How to get better at asking

The old saying is “practice makes perfect” and it’s absolutely true when it comes to fundraising.

So, get out there and ask.

Start with someone you know who cares about your organization’s mission. Choose someone you know pretty well and ask for something small. The point here is to get a quick ‘win’ because it will boost your confidence.

Be prepared. Don’t wing it. Outline what you’ll say and how you’ll say it. Think through questions they might ask about your nonprofit or your project, and how you’ll answer them.
Practice. Rehearse your ask in front of the mirror. I know, I know – this seems silly, but it will help you if you’re nervous. If you really want to practice, video yourself and watch the video. I always learn a ton from watching a video of myself doing something.

Believe in what you’re asking for. Focus on the mission, not the money. You’re here to change lives, and when your ask results in a “yes,” you’ll get resources you need to fulfill your mission.


Tips to ask for money

Stay focused on your ‘why.’ Why does it matter to you if you get what you’re asking for? Get in touch with the deepest reason in your heart why this matters to you and let it strengthen you. Visualize it and keep it firmly planted in your mind as you ask.

Imagine you and the donor on the same team. It’s not ‘you vs them,’ it’s ‘you & them.’ You’re partners in this work and they want to help you be successful. See yourself as already on the same team.

It’s all about your intention. When you come from a place of respect and integrity, you aren’t “hitting them up” or “strong arming them” to give to your nonprofit. You’re raising money for something that matters, and you’re asking for their help. That’s all.

Asking is important. You’ll never fully fund your nonprofit without it, so it’s time to start working on any mindset issues you have so you can get out there and ask for what your nonprofit needs.

Finally, remember that you’re not taking anything away from people when you ask. You are simply giving them to chance to participate in the work your nonprofit does. Simple as that.

And lives will be changed because of it.

Volunteers are the lifeblood of many nonprofits.They can bring extra hands to a program.

They can also bring fresh ideas, new enthusiasm, and a different perspective.

They work without reward and often under less-than-perfect circumstances.

So, be sure to thank them. And thank them well.

It’s National Volunteer Week, so what better time to give your volunteers some love?

If you’re like most, you’ve not stopped long enough to even think about it, much less come up with a creative way to show your gratitude.

Don’t worry – I’ve got you covered.

Here are some ideas for thanking your volunteers this week or any time.

  1. Hand-written thank you note. A personalized note is always in style. Simple jot down a heart-felt thanks along with a specific, personal reason why you appreciate them. You can choose fancy or themed cards for more impact.
  2. Home-made card. Got a creative spark and some extra time? Make the cards. You could personalize them with a photo of your volunteer in action, or something else that gives the card that personal touch. Craft stores are FULL of stickers, decals, paper punches, and other toys to help you create little works of art.
  3. Crayon drawing from a kid in your program. If you have a program that serves kids, crayon drawings are pure magic and will warm anyone’s heart.
  4. Thank-you video. Shoot a short video thanking your volunteer. It could be various staff saying thank you, your program participants, or your Board. Who could be in the video that would warm your volunteers’ hearts? Remember that this sort of video doesn’t need to be long or fancy, and can easily be shot with your smart phone. Upload it to YouTube and send your volunteers a link.
  5. Send a thank-you ecard. There are all kinds of resources for sending ecards. www.Hallmarkecards.com and www.americangreetings.com/ecards are two options.
  6. Have a Board member call to thank them. A phone call from a Board member is always powerful. And it’s good for both the volunteer and the Board member.
  7. Have your entire staff sign a card for them. This is so simple, yet often overlooked. At a staff meeting or gathering, simple pass a card around and ask everyone to sign it for your volunteer. If you have lots of volunteers, this may take a while, but the payoff will be big. Plus, it gets your entire staff involved in appreciating volunteers, which is a good thing.
  8. Host a small reception to thank them. Depending on your situation, you may be able to host a dessert reception or an ice cream social or some such thing to show your volunteers how much you appreciate them. If you can do this when your volunteers are already gathered, you’ll have more of them show up. Volunteers don’t always want to come out for a special event honoring them. Strange but true.
  9. Give them a Starbucks gift card. If you can afford it, a small token can be very meaningful. You might be able to get these donated if you ask nice.
  10. Write a Letter to the Editor of your local paper and publicly thank your volunteers. You can express your thanks to your volunteers as a group and talk about how essential they are to your work. Be careful about naming them individually – if you accidentally omit someone, there will be hurt feelings!
  11. Thank them on Facebook. Don’t forget that social media can be a powerful tool for showing appreciation.
  12. Get creative! If you’d like to do something a little different or a little clever, check out this Pinterest Board I created for you. There are about 40 ideas and resources there that can help you make a big impact. You’ll find it at https://www.pinterest.com/getfullyfunded/volunteer-appreciation/

Appreciating and thanking volunteers really should be an ongoing activity, not something you do once a year. Figure out what you can do regularly and put the individual actions on your calendar so you can keep up with it.

And in case you need them, here are some other great resources for finding and working with volunteers:




It’s April, which means the first quarter of 2015 is done.

Now is a great time to pause and reflect on what you’ve gotten done and see what you need to do next.

It’s time to pull out your fundraising plan and see if you’re on track.

If you don’t HAVE a fundraising plan, you’re not alone. Most folks who work in a small nonprofit either ave no plan or a partial plan, and it’s almost never in writing.

Here are some common reasons why you may not have a plan.

1. You don’t have time. You’re crazy busy with more on your plate than you can ever say grace over (that’s Southern for more than you can get done). It seems like every day, the list just keeps growing. The problem here is that you’re busy, but are you busy doing the right things? What is your busy-ness moving you toward? Without a fundraising plan that’s based on sound strategy, you may be going in circles or doing things that will never actually move you toward your goals.

2. You don’t know where to start. Sometimes big tasks like “Create a fundraising plan” are just too daunting. You know it needs to be done, but you have no idea where to start, and the thought of figuring it out makes you want to take a nap. You need to take it one step at a time, and stop being more focused on getting it right than getting it started. Just take the first step – that will get you out of procrastination and into action.

3. You don’t know what format to use. Many times people say to me “Sandy, if I just knew what a fundraising plan should look like, I could create one.” Unfortunately, there’s no perfect formula here. Plans can take various shapes. The most important thing is to get it in writing. As long as it’s in your head, it isn’t real. Use Excel or Word or crayons and paper if that appeals to you. The format isn’t what’s important – what’s important is setting a direction and some goals, and getting it in writing.

4. You don’t know what to include. Now we’re getting into cop-out mode. In your gut, you know you need to include all the major details that describe your goals and how you’ll reach them. Saying you don’t know what to include is just an excuse so you don’t have to do it.

5. Things are already going along just fine. This one is a little tricky. Sometimes it can seem like everything is just perking along. And it may be. But if you’re not raising enough money to fully fund your nonprofit’s mission, then you have more work to do. You need to stretch and find a way to be more effective and efficient in fundraising. That’s when you need a plan.

Those are a lot of reasons why you might not have a plan.

Ready for some good news? It’s not too late to put one together.

You can start today to create a fundraising plan for the rest of 2015.

Try this:

1. Start by setting a goal for the amount of money you need to raise. “As much as we can” or “A lot” are not good goals. Look at the programs you’re running or want to run. What does it cost? Include all direct and indirect expenses. And add it all up. THAT’S the amount you need to raise.

I suggest you think big on this one. Make it a substantial goal – not too crazy big, but big enough to stretch you a bit. It’ll cause you to stretch your thinking and your skills, which will be a good thing.

2. Evaluate what you’ve done before. This is a good time to take a look at hard numbers. What has worked? What didn’t? Which fundraising activities gave you the best ROI? Then decide which ones you want to do again. Hint: you don’t have to keep doing something just because you always have. You also don’t have to do something just because everyone else does.

This means you need to do a little digging. Take a little time to find out what you’ve really raised on all your fundraising efforts over the past year and do the math to figure out which ones gave you the most return on your investment. For every dollar you spent, how much did you raise?

The only reason you should skip this step is if your nonprofit is so new you haven’t done anything yet.

3. Choose the strategies you want to use to raise money. Pick those that give you a good return on your investment of time, money, and energy. Not sure what to pick? Use my 1-10-1000 Rule.

Do 1 special event and do it really well. Make it a Signature Event that everyone in town associates with your organization. Make it a FUN event that people talk about for days afterward. And make sure it makes you plenty of money so it’s worth the effort.

Get 10 grants. Actually, get all you can. I like the number 10 because it fits with my 1-10-1000 Rule. Seriously, when we do grant research for clients, we typically find about 10 really solid grant prospects. Chances are good that with 10 grants, you’ll have deadlines scattered throughout the year, with a few of them having no deadlines and you can work them in when you have time.

Get 1,000 individual donors. Yes, that’s one thousand donors. Don’t freak – you can do this. That many donors will give you a SOLID base of support. Start by figuring out the number of active donors you have right now. Then work on adding 100. When you get those, go find another hundred. By taking it in smaller bites, you’ll be more likely to be successful.

And where do you find new donors? Start with those already invested in your organization – ask your volunteers to give. Ask you those giving in-kind to you to make a financial gift. Ask people who benefit from your programs to give. Then ask them to ask their friends to give. Work your way out to others who are likely to care. Create an Ideal Donor Profile of the person who is MOST likely to give, then brainstorm ways that you can find them easily and in large numbers. This exercise is extremely valuable and will help you focus your donor acquisition efforts in the right place.

4. Put the plan in writing. As you answer these questions, write down your answers. It won’t be a perfect plan, but it will get you started, and hey, that’s half the battle. If It’s not in writing, it isn’t real.
Mark your calendar to revisit this plan in July to see how the 2nd quarter of the year went. That will be a good time to make adjustments before you head into the Fall.

And remember, you can fail to plan or plan to fail – it’s up to you.